A company that’s been sued for billions of dollars over the years for copying designs seems to be the only one in 2015 with innovative smartphone design.
Ironic, right? The S6 Edge was a big gamble for Samsung, and if our top ten smartphones list is anything to go by, the gamble has paid off. Metal and glass seem to be the flavour of the year and the A8 has plenty of both. Even though it doesn’t break any new ground in terms of smartphone design, the Galaxy A8 is a handsome Android device with a few tricks up its sleeve.
Tall, dark and handsome
At 5.9mm, the Galaxy A8 is Samsung’s slimmest phone. The iPhone 6, in comparison, is 6.9mm thick. Now maybe we’re desensitized towards the absurd dimensions of smartphones and tablets these days, because when we finally held the A8 in our hands… it didn’t feel all that thin. Don’t get us wrong, the phone feels great in your hands with that tall, narrow profile with barely any bezels; it just doesn’t feel revolutionarily thin.
The Samsung website makes a big deal out of the all-metal body of the A8, but the back of the smartphone is plastic. It integrates smoothly with the curved metal on the sides though, so we aren’t complaining. The front is all glass and the sides are all metal.
The A8 is one of those devices that looks good from a distance, but feels better in your hands.
Samsung’s probably deduced that 5.5in isn’t a big enough screen size for a regular smartphone, so the A8 boasts of a 5.7in Super-AMOLED display with a Full HD resolution. The pixel density is a very healthy 386ppi, squarely between that of the iPhone 6 (326ppi) and the 6 Plus (401ppi).
While the screen is absolutely gorgeous, there were times we felt it was a *tiny* bit too big. Screen size choices are subjective, of course, so no points off for the large display.
As for the quality of the said large display, it’s very nice. Watching videos, playing games and browsing the web are all an absolute delight because of the super-AMOLED. Outdoor visibility is perfect, the colours are punchy and the viewing angles are great.
There have been reports on the World Wide Web of lag on the A8’s home screen. We didn’t come across this particular lag, but that might also be because I switched to the Aviate launcher a few hours after getting the A8. I'm still not comfortable using Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, even though it has come really far over the years. The bloatware is at an all-time low on Samsung devices, and that’s saying something.
The A8 features Samsung’s homegrown Exynos 5430 SoC processor, firmly establishing it as a mid-range device. If too many apps are open in the background, none will crash, but there is a split second delay when you jump from one app to another. Oh, and it gets hot during heavy usage. Not uncomfortably so but enough to remind you to kill some apps running in the background.
2GB of RAM is okay for day-to-day multi-tasking, but makes you wonder why a device costing more than ₹30,000 isn’t packing more than two gigs of RAM. Phones almost ten grand cheaper now have at least 3GB RAM. Case in point? The formidable OnePlus 2.
Not a one trick pony
The A8 packs a few unexpected goodies in a mid-range device that might make it a tempting buy. First off, this is an LTE device - you can start stalking your ex on Facebook in 4G speeds if you get the A8. Provided you have 4G in your area; India still has pretty limited LTE coverage.
Also in the A8’s goody bag is expandable storage. Samsung seemed to have been moving away from expandable storage with its last few launches, which is a pity - it was one of the key features that set it apart from Apple. One of the dual-SIM slots on the A8 is a hybrid - it can house either an SIM or a MicroSD card upto 128GB.
Oh, and that bland Samsung home button that every Samsung has? That one functions as a fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy A8. You can store up to four fingerprints and detection is surprisingly fast and fluid. We were impressed.
Samsung has cut a few corners to pack in some extra features into the A8. Sadly, it seems the camera faced the brunt. The good stuff first - the camera UI is simple and the shutter speed is fantastic. A quick two presses of the home button brings up the camera and it starts clicking instantly.
The A8 packs a respectable 16MP and 5MP camera set, but the picture quality is not that respectable. Again, this could be overlooked in a Rs 10-15k device, but such average performance from a Rs 32,500 smartphone is disappointing. The 2014 Moto X, a phone that is almost a year older and cheaper, took far better stills than this A8. Outdoor shots are fine, but the moment you start shooting inside, even under good lighting, the shots come out a little grainy and lack detail. There is a slight green tint too sometimes, as if the shots were taken in The Matrix. Selfies are top notch though.
The A8 shoots videos in Full HD. The phone gets a little warm and chomps through the battery while shooting videos but, sadly, that’s kind of the norm.
The A8 comfortably goes through an average day on a single charge, courtesy a non-removable 3050mAh battery. It also features a power saving mode and an ‘ultra’ power saving mode that will let you squeeze extra juice from the battery and maybe last for two full days. Maybe.
With brightness set at about 30%, intermittent gaming sessions, constant messaging, Facebook and some podcasts, our A8 lasted a day and then some. More impressive is the A8’s performance when it’s not being used. It loses barely 3-4% of battery during the night when idle. Good boy.
If you remove the price from the equation, the A8 is a great mid-range device. It looks good and feels amazing with that cold metal running along its super-slim sides. The display is phenomenal and features like fingerprint sensor and expandable storage really amp up the user experience. Even the camera and the 2GB RAM aren’t horrendous; they become a problem once the price enters the equation. They just aren’t good enough to justify a Rs 30k-plus price tag.
If this was priced below ₹25,000, it could have been a game changer. But at ₹32,500, the Galaxy A8 will end up as one more product in Samsung’s extensive mid-range smartphone portfolio.